Asking God To Forgive Others

Q. I have read here and there in a few of your answers (the most recent being 8/31/09 Am I wrong to be angry) that we can ask God to forgive another’s sin. Could you tell me where that is in the Bible? I find it hard to comprehend that I can ask God and He will forgive another’s sin even though that person has not repented. What if they are not a believer? Can I still ask and how does that work?

A. 1 John 5:16-17 says,

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”

Notice that John said, “If anyone sees his brother … ” For believers, sinning does not cause death. All the sins of our life are paid for. Ultimately, the only sin that leads to death is the sin of rejecting the pardon that Jesus purchased for us with His life. It’s not that God refuses to forgive that sin, but that He can’t, because the person has rejected the only provision God has made for our sins.

We should rejoice when a believer is forgiven, like we rejoice when someone is born again. Asking God to forgive a believer’s sins is a way we fulfill the Lord’s commandment to love one another as He loved us. (John 13:34)

Where non-believers are concerned, Jesus told us to pray for them, too. He asked God to forgive the ones who were crucifying them (Luke 23:34). And Stephen asked God to forgive the men who were stoning him (Acts 7:60). I’ve found that asking God to forgive the people who have wronged me has always helped me get over my anger and find peace again.

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